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VOL. 122 | NO. 228 | Friday, November 30, 2007

Prison Delayed for Ford

By Bill Dries

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Former state Sen. John Ford won't begin serving his five-and-a-half-year prison sentence for bribery at least until the end of February.

U.S. District Judge J. Daniel Breen postponed Ford's prison report date Wednesday citing Ford's role as guardian of his four children with his former wife Tamara Mitchell-Ford.

All sides in the case are scheduled for a Feb. 27 report hearing on the matter before Breen.

Ford had been scheduled to report Dec. 12 to a federal prison in Anthony, Texas.

But with Ford's ex-wife facing more legal problems, including another drunk driving arrest after having lost custody of their children, attorney Robert Brooks argued both parents should not be imprisoned at the same time.

Mitchell-Ford currently is serving 11 months and 26 days in prison for a drunk driving conviction. Her probation on the conviction was revoked earlier this month in Collierville after she was charged with a second drunk driving offense there in September. She also faces drunk driving and other traffic charges in Memphis from an October fender bender at Poplar Avenue and Yates Road.

Her ex-husband took the witness stand during Wednesday's hearing to explain how that affects the children who are ages 15 and younger.

"It just emphasizes that he has a very close and emotional relationship with his children," Brooks said after the hearing. "I think it's just basically the circumstance of both parents having to serve a sentence and not wanting to leave the children with no parents at all, if it's not absolutely necessary."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim DiScenza argued that Ford doesn't live with the children. Brooks disputed that.

"What he's done is stayed at Tamara's house with the children. The problem now is that Tamara's house is in bankruptcy and it's no longer available," Brooks said as he referred to Ford's relationship with another woman he is not married to but has children with. "He's trying to find some other place, which is where Connie Matthews comes in. They may be able to stay there with Connie and her children."

A jury convicted Ford in April of taking bribes in the Tennessee Waltz investigation. FBI agents posing as corrupt business executives gave Ford money to draft and push legislation for their bogus company. Ford was recorded by the agents as they discussed the legislation and paid him cash.

Ford still faces trial next year on a second set of corruption charges in a federal court in Nashville stemming from his work for TennCare contractors while he was a state senator. That trial is scheduled to begin March 4.

Should Mitchell-Ford be released from jail, Brooks conceded Ford's report date could change. But Brooks also said the defense may renew its move to have Ford remain free on bond pending appeal of his Memphis conviction.

PROPERTY SALES 50 389 12,758
MORTGAGES 21 248 8,003
BUILDING PERMITS 295 813 29,934
BANKRUPTCIES 35 164 6,064